Political Animal

NORTH KOREAN TIMELINE….I’ve been struggling

NORTH KOREAN TIMELINE….I’ve been struggling to figure out the basic timeline for the whole North Korean mess. No conclusions or policy recommendations, just the basic facts, and I think I have it:

  • 1994: North Korea is about to start production of plutonium. The result is a treaty that shuts down their plutonium reactor in exchange for a light water reactor provided by the U.S., plus some interim shipments of food and oil.

  • 1998: North Korea purchases uranium enrichment technology from Pakistan.

  • October 2002: The U.S. presses North Korea about its uranium program, and Korea presses back by revealing that back in 1994 it already had enough plutonium for two bombs. We just didn’t know it (and they didn’t tell us).

  • December 2002: North Korea throws out the IAEA inspectors and restarts their plutonium reactor. However, they are still years away from successfully enriching uranium.

The reason I’m curious about this is that I’m trying to figure out whether or not North Korea actually broke their treaty with us. The relevant document is the 1994 Agreed Framework, which has specific language about shutting down the plutonium reactors but only very general language about “denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula: both parties will “take steps,” they will “work together,” and they will “create an atmosphere.” In other words, nothing.

Then there’s the non-nuclear part of the agreement:

II. The two sides will move toward full normalization of political and economic relations.

1) Within three months of the date of this Document, both sides will reduce barriers to trade and investment, including restrictions on telecommunications services and financial transactions.

2) Each side will open a liaison office in the other’s capital following resolution of consular and other technical issues through expert level discussions.

3) As progress is made on issues of concern to each side, the U.S. and DPRK will upgrade bilateral relations to the Ambassadorial level.

In the end, none of this stuff happened. Both sides blame the other.

So what’s the deal here? I’m no more eager for the North Koreans to have nuclear bombs than anyone, which is why I favor negotiation with them. Overall, I think the chance of negotiating away their nuclear capability is worth the risk of setting a bad example.

But my real question is this: do we have a leg to stand on when we claim that they “violated our trust”? This is a rather nebulous charge, after all, and a more pointed question is whether the North Koreans actually broke any treaties with us prior to the U.S. visit in October. A “plain text” reading of the Agreed Framework suggests that they didn’t.

I’m open to comments about this.

UPDATE: Sebastian Holsclaw writes that by building nuclear bombs the North Koreans violated the Non-Proliferation Treaty (which was also mentioned in the Agreed Framework). Thus, they have violated their treaty agreements with us.

On another subject, Kevin Batcho points me to a post on his blog Beyond the Wasteland where he quotes a report showing that the original plutonium production was done between 1987-1991. In other words, during the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations. Nothing was done at the time and Clinton inherited the problem in 1994.

More later.


SKEPTICAL ENVIRONMENTALISM….The Danish Research Agency released a report on Tuesday denouncing Danish author Bjorn Lomborg for the presentation of facts in his book The Skeptical Environmentalist. Australian economist John Quiggin, who is quite knowledgable on the subject, summarizes the situation like this:

There’s a sense in which Bjorn Lomborg is entitled to feel aggrieved about the finding of scientific dishonesty made against him. His book is no more or less dishonest than the average book on this topic coming out of the thinktanks on both sides.

Not exactly a stirring defense, but it’s about the best he’s going to get. As Quiggin put it in another post, “Lomborg is free to believe the most optimistic estimates on every environmental issue, and the most pessimistic estimates of the cost of doing anything. But he shouldn’t call himself ‘skeptical’ or an ‘environmentalist’.”

It’s really too bad that Lomborg took the approach he did. A lot of environmentalists these days really have slid all the way down a slippery slope in which they oppose any environmental damage regardless of the cost of doing so. The proper approach is honest cost-benefit analysis, a necessary first step in prioritizing scarce resources, and Lomborg could have made a good case for this. As it is, Lomborg slid all the way to the bottom of the opposite slope and ended up making a case for nothing. Pity.

RACIAL PROFILING….Lots of blogospheric coverage

RACIAL PROFILING….Lots of blogospheric coverage of the Boston Globe study of racial profiling in Massachussetts. The results are shocking: Hispanics and blacks who were stopped by police were 50% more likely to be searched than whites. Who would have guessed?

But I think there’s some kind of east coast bias at work here, because we have our very own study of racial profiling in Los Angeles and nobody’s mentioned it yet. Here’s the deal: we’ve had a bit of police unpleasantness over the past decade in Los Angeles, and the LAPD was finally forced to sign a consent decree with the Justice Department about a year ago. One of the aspects of the consent decree is that the LAPD is required to keep statistics on traffic stops, something that LA’s finest don’t find amusing:

The requirement is widely resented by LAPD officers. Many say they do not stop people merely because of their race, and that they often cannot tell the race of people they are tailing, particularly at night.

Maybe so, but apparently they can figure out someone’s race after they’ve pulled them over:

Among the findings: Thirty-eight percent of drivers stopped by police were recorded as Latino, 33% were white and 18% black. According to the 2000 Census, the city’s population is 46.5% Latino, 29.7% white and 10.9% African American.

Of those pulled over, 7% of whites were asked to step out of their cars, compared with 22% of Latinos and 22% of blacks. Once out of their cars, 67% of the blacks were patted down and 85% were subjected to a search of their person, car, residence or belongings, while 55% of Latinos were frisked and 84% were searched. Meanwhile, 50% of whites were frisked and 71% were searched.

Just in case you don’t want to bother doing the math, the bottom line is that Los Angeles police would sneer at a mere 50% difference in the rate at which they search minorities. Among people who were pulled over:

  • 3.5% of whites were frisked and 5% were searched.

  • 12% of Latinos were frisked and 18.5% were searched.

  • 14.7% of blacks were frisked and 18.7% were searched

Man, I sure wish I were black so I could benefit from all those affirmative action goodies. Life would sure be sweet then.

UPDATE: One of my readers thinks I should avoid sarcastic tag lines like the last sentence of this post. Comments?

HUH?….Mindles Dreck explains the George

HUH?….Mindles Dreck explains the George Bush Tax Complification Act of 2003. Or tries to anyway, but I’m not even sure he understands what this is all about, and he does it for a living. I sure don’t, but whatever it is, it seems like an extraordinarily stupid idea. And go here (or just scroll up) for more.

What a mess. Was anybody who actually gives a damn involved in this whole plan?